‘After working harvests in New Zealand, the US and Europe, California and the Northern Rhône were where I really learnt about seeking out vineyards you can relate to,’ says Jean Smit.
After returning to South Africa, Jean earned his stripes as senior winemaker at Boekenhoutskloof in the Franschhoek Valley. After leaving in 2019, he partnered with David Curl, former owner of Château Gaby in Bordeaux, to launch Damascene.
Wines are crafted in their Elgin cellar, a glorious light-filled space framed by mature oak trees, that gazes out over orchards and vine- yards. It’s a remarkable space, but for Smit it’s simply a means to an end: exploring the terroir of Cape vineyards through wine.
That journey is on best display with the Syrah. Here Smit has crafted three unique variations on the classic Rhône varietal, working with fruit from Swartland, Stellenbosch and Cederberg vineyards. It’s a fine way to discover how terroir comes into play in the glass.
Smit also explores the sum of all parts in his Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from three sites in the Stellenbosch region. Similarly, Cabernet Franc is picked from a pair of Bottelary hilltop vineyards, while a Chenin Blanc taps into three unique sites planted atop wildly different soils. It’s an orchestra of flavours, brought into harmony by a skilled conductor. Guided tastings at the Damascene cellar are offered by appointment.
By Richard Holmes